Roles of the BRD4 short isoform in phase separation and active gene transcription

Xinye Han, Di Yu, Ruirui Gu, Yanjie Jia, Qi Wang, Anbalagan Jaganathan, Xuelan Yang, Miaomiao Yu, Nicolas Babault, Chengcheng Zhao, Huanfa Yi, Qiang Zhang, Ming Ming Zhou, Lei Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


BRD4, a major tandem-bromodomain-containing transcription regulator, has two isoforms. The long isoform (BRD4L) has an extended C terminus that binds transcription cofactors, while the short isoform (BRD4S) lacks this C-terminal extension. Unlike BRD4L, the role of BRD4S in gene transcription remains unclear. Here, we report that, in human cancer cells, BRD4S forms nuclear puncta that possess liquid-like properties and that colocalize with BRD4L, MED1 and sites of histone H3 lysine 27 acetylation. BRD4 puncta are correlated with BRD4S but not BRD4L expression levels. BRD4S knockdown reduces BRD4S condensation, and ectopic expression promotes puncta formation and target gene transcription. BRD4S nuclear condensation is mediated by its intrinsically disordered regions and binding of its bromodomains to DNA and acetylated chromatin, respectively, and BRD4S phosphorylation diminishes BRD4 condensation. Our study illuminates a previously unappreciated role of BRD4S in organizing chromatin and transcription factors through phase separation to sustain gene transcription in chromatin for cancer cell proliferation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-341
Number of pages9
JournalNature Structural and Molecular Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020


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